Like many members of my generation, I first became aware of the great Goofy controversy via the classic “Stand By Me”.
Based on a Stephen King novella – the movies “Apt Pupil” and “The Shawshank Redemption” sprang from the same collection – “Stand by Me” tells the story of four 12-year-old friends on the cusp of growing up as the ’50s transitioned to the ’60s.
The friends learn that a missing boy, who got lost while berry picking, was struck by a train.
“Do you want to see a body?”
They decided on an overnight hike to find the body and then alert the authorities, in that order.
They reckon they’ll get their name in the paper. Surely, they’ll be heroes.
It’s nostalgic and elegiac in the ways that have always greatly appealed to me. A slightly mournful boy who was aware of the world that was slipping through his fingers even before he had really started to loosen its grip.
I was 12 in 1986 when the movie came out. And I was prone to grand adventures deep in the local woods that would have us wandering and lost to the world for hours at a time.
I was also in the throes of a cultural obsession with the ’50s.
The ’50s were very big in the ’80s. In fact, it’s when I conned Columbia House into letting me join their exclusive 12 cassettes for a penny club. Mixed in among my Michael Jacksons and Billy Joels (“An Innocent Man” was itself a throwback to the ’50s) were Buddy Holly’s greatest hits, Chuck Berry’s Great 28 and bands like the Beach Boys.
And so with the four boys sitting around the campfire having 12-year-old discussions while The Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly To Me” played in the background, I was properly gobsmacked when they debated exactly what species Disney’s beloved character Goofy was.
When Verne closed the scene, he spoke for all of us.
“God, that’s weird. What the hell is Goofy?”
I suspect that movie only gave voice to a long-running debate amongst Disney fans: What is Goofy?
Thankfully, the Internet is here to save us.
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A very Goofy history
Before we delve too deeply into the dark days of the web, it’s important to understand what we’re talking about.
Dippy Dawg: The inspiration for Goofy’s character (Status: Dog)
The Goofy Character was born as Dippy Dawg. Dippy was an older version of the character with a white beard but many of the famous Goofy tics like the guffawing laugh.
Goofy’s origins date back to 1932 and the “Mickey’s Revue” short. Dippy Dawg – the proto Goofy – is a memorably annoying cartoon character in the crowd.
But somehow, the character proved quite popular. And so, later, he returned as a younger version of himself with a name change in the short “Whoopee Party.”
Goofy’s first official appearance (Status: Dog)
“Whoopee Party” is memorable not just for Goofy’s first official appearance, but also because his tail is seen. It is clearly a canine’s tail. This will be important later.
Goofy soon joined Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to form a popular comedy trio. Later, it was Donald and Goofy making their own comedy team. However, by the late ’30s and ’40s, Goofy was popular enough to star on his own.
These Goofy shorts were still in heavy rotation when I was a kid and I’ve seen many of them. Goofy playing various sports was always a favorite.
In the late ’40s and ’50s, they experimented with Goofy.
Goofy’s character evolves into George G. Geef (Status: Unclear)
Specifically, shrinking his ears and snout and losing the Southern Drawl from his voice. They even changed his name for a time, or maybe more accurately, cast him as a character named George G. Geef, implying Goofy was a nickname.
Goofy’s popularity waned somewhat though he always remained a close friend of Mickey Mouse and one of the key members of Mickey’s inner circle.
Popularity returned, however, in the ‘80s with “The Goof Troop” TV show and “The Goofy Movie” which introduced Goofy’s son, Max, making him the first of the main Disney characters to procreate.
By the time the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” started connecting with youngsters around the world, the Disney character Goofy was more than 70 years old and as popular as ever.
Comparing Goofy to Pluto (Status: Cow)
I always fell into the Goofy is a dog category. My feeling was Goofy was an anthropomorphic dog, in other words, a dog with human features, human traits and human characteristics.
However, there are a few stumbling blocks to this idea of Goofy as a dog.
First, the Mickey Mouse gang has a dog; Mickey’s loyal pet Pluto.
How can Pluto be a fairly regular pet dog, walking on all fours, mostly unable to speak and relying on Mickey to feed and house him while Goofy – a supposed member of the same species – is walking around wearing a turtle neck and hat and pants and a vest. Goofy can have a job and play sports and operate as a human while Pluto is entirely reliant on Mickey.
If we have learned anything from the obsessive fandom of the internet age is that we expect the in-world dynamics of a fictional universe to be consistent. How did Goofy get on a different evolutionary track than Pluto? It’s a question for the ages.
Goofy dates a Clarabelle Cow (Status: Cow?)
Secondly, a Disney main character’s love interest usually does not cross species. Mickey has Minnie Mouse, Donald has Daisy Duck and Pluto is smitten with other pet-style dogs.
Goofy’s chief love interest is Clarabelle Cow, who – if we ignore the inherent difficulties in a cow dating a dog – is a good fit for the Goof.
She’d definitely swipe right and yes, I did have to Google to see if swipe right was the good one.
If ducks date ducks and mice date mice, shouldn’t it stand to reason that cows date cows and Goofy is, therefore, a cow.
Arguments that Goofy could be a cow
There are some who would have you believe Goofy is a cow.
The chief reasonings being outlined above, namely, he can’t be the same species as Pluto and his love interest is a cow.
The website ReelRundown – in a clearly satirical post – fueled the fire as many people missed the satire. Claiming that not only is Goofy a cow, he’s clearly a certain kind of cow.
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Specifically, the site speculates that Goofy is an Aberdeen Angus cow, a breed of Scottish cow that conveniently doesn’t have horns. They also make quite a few arguments about his physical appearance that are mostly specious – the point about Goofy having the flat teeth of a herbivore is solid.
Arguments that Goofy is probably a dog
But I think, it’s pretty clear that Goofy was born as Dawg.
His ears are dog-like as are his snout and nose. Compare the noses of Clarabelle Cow or her other paramour – Horace Horsecollar – to Goofy’s. Goofy’s snout and nose are like Pluto’s.
The fact-checking website Snopes.com got into the game of identifying the species of our favorite gullible good Samaritan though, in my opinion, the Snopes arguments get a little flighty.
Snopes tries to debunk the in-species dating rules within the Disney Universe but cites “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” as well as Miss Piggy and Kermit from the Muppets.
First of all, even though they are now a Disney property Muppet canon is a completely separate issue from classic Disney canon. Jim Henson’s creations have little bearing on Walt Disney’s from 50 or so years earlier. And really, the same applies for Jessica Rabbit and her rabbit husband Roger. Neither really exists in the proper Mickey Mouse universe, though Roger did sing Goofy’s praises.
The best case for cross-species dating is Clarabelle and Horace. If a horse can court a cow, then a dog should be able to as well.
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So then Goofy is definitely a dog, right?
In the broadest sense, I think probably yes.
If you get any Disney executive with actual decision-making authority on the issue, I think they’d tell you Goofy is a dog.
But I think the evidence on hand points to another option.
Goofy is a canine, in the dog family, but not exactly a dog like a wolf or a coyote.
Why do I think this? First, his tail. Pluto’s tail is sleek and waggy. Goofy – whose tail is usually hidden within his pants – is bushy like a wolf or coyote or husky.
I think Goofy is pretty clearly not a wolf or husky.
I think he’s a tall, lanky coyote with a bushy tail, a species that in the Disney universe shares a common ancestor with the dog but has evolved along a different course.
Bill Farmer – who has voiced Goofy since 1987 – agrees … somewhat.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, he attempted to settle the debate.
He stated emphatically that Goofy is not a dog. He said Goofy and his family are of their own species, canis goofus, they exist in the canine family but are clearly a different species from Pluto and his ilk.
“He’s just Goofy,” Farmer said.
What do you think? Is Goofy a dog, a cow, or something else entirely? Let us know in the comments.